Happy Boy Mgxaji dies at 61
By Ron Jackson

Nkosana Mgxaji, one of the best SA boxers never to win a world title, has died in Durban at the age of 61. 

The almost legendary “Happyboy” was among the very best of the many outstanding fighters from the Eastern Cape.

Mgxaji had lost only once in 73 fights when, at the age of 30, he challenged Samuel Serrano of Puerto Rico for the WBA junior lightweight title. They met before a crowd of about 6 000 at the Show Grounds in Goodwood, Cape Town, on April 14, 1979.

Mgxaji’s “go-go gyrations” initially gave Serrano problems. However, SA Boxing World reported that there was no happiness for Happyboy, who “clowned” his way through the bout.

Mgxaji dropped the champion with a cracking right to the jaw in the fifth round but instead of following up he stood back and allowed Serrano to recover.

Serrano, defending his title for the ninth time, tagged Mgxaji with a left hook to the jaw and a right to the body in the eighth. Mgxaji went down but got up at the count of eight. However, he was in no condition to continue. His chief second, Ronnie Madinda, threw in the towel and referee Larry Rozadilla stopped the fight 1 minute 34 seconds into the round.

Mgxaji eventually retired with a record of 88 wins, 9 losses, 4 draws and 26 knockouts.

He was born in Tsolo Location, which later became Duncan Village, near East London, on September 18, 1949.

He began boxing in the Peacock Hall when he was eight years old. He called himself “Blueboy” but later switched to “Happyboy,” which referred to his late brother.

On June 24, 1972, Mgxaji had his first crack at a national title when he took on Anthony Morodi for the SA junior lightweight belt. They met at Jabulani, near Johannesburg. Morodi was too experienced and Mgxaji suffered his first loss; beaten on points over 12 rounds.

When Mgxaji beat Moses Mthembu on points over eight rounds on September 2, 1972, it was the first time that boxing had been staged at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane. He regularly attracted crowds of more than 25 000 to the venue later in his career.

No other fighter from the Eastern Cape, including world champions Welcome Ncita, Mbulelo Botile and Vuyani Bungu, ever attracted crowds of that size.

On June 30, 1973, Mgxaji fought Morodi in a return match and won the SA title. In December that year he retained the belt with a points win over Alfred Buqwana, who is still one of the top SA ring officials.

From 1975 to 1978, Mgxaji won 16 fights, beating highly rated Antonio Amaya (Panama), Hyun Chi Kim (Korea), Norman Goins (US), Antonio Jumao-Es (Panama), Langton Tinago (Rhodesia) and Willie Rodriguez (US). Among the local fighters he defeated were former or future SA champions such as Norman Sekgapane, Thomas Sithebe, Manuel de Paiva and Eddie Mileham. Mgxaji won the vacant “supreme” SA junior lightweight title when he stopped De Paiva in the eighth round.

His first fight against Norman “Pangaman” Sekgapane, in August 1976, ended in a draw after six rounds when the police stopped the fight because of rioting among the spectators. However, in a return match three months later, Mgxaji won convincingly over ten rounds.

The year 1979 started badly for Mgxaji when he was stopped by Serrano in his first and only crack at a world title. In June that year he was outpointed by Tsietse Maretloane. In August, he lost his SA junior lightweight title when he failed to make the weight for a fight against Evans Gwiji, even though he won on points over 12 rounds.

In May 1980, he was stripped of the Cape Province lightweight title because he was overweight for a bout against Bramley Whiteboy.

Aged 31, the good life and increasing weight problems were beginning to take their toll and the popular Mgxaji was reduced to fighting in six and eightrounders against local fighters.

On December 21, 1985, in his favourite fight town, Mdantsane, he beat Joseph Madonsela on points over eight rounds to end his career on a winning note. He beat 15 fighters who at some time or another held a national title.